This is the last part of the blog post series about our Nov’16 trek on the Annapurna circuit…
part 1: Zurich – Chame
part 2: Chame – High Camp
Day 10: High Camp – Thorung La Pass – Muktinath… Day ‘D’
4:00am: morning alarm. 4:30am breakfast. I hate garlic after all of this. Somehow everyone believes that garlic helps against AMS, so they put it into everything. Surprisingly I have not yet seen a garlic tea. So we had some potatoes that were paired probably with the same amount of garlic… Even after brushing the teeth I managed to explore pieces of garlic while hiking between the teeth. Yummy.
The procession with headlamps started at 5am. Cooooold. And dark. And steep. And coooold. Some people conveniently took ponies.
We made it!!! At around 7am or so, we reached the top of the whole Annapurna Circuit. Still cold! There were millions of people up there. All wanting to take selfies and photos with the Thorung-La Pass sign at 5416m. So did we of course.
Without much time spending up here we started the quick descend. Since the start of our Annapurna Circuit trek, this was the most scary part for me. Surprisingly, it was very easy. Long, yes, but not too steep. Luckily I had some ankle and knee protections. We descended some 1800 metres to Muktinath. Isi fell down for the first time on the trek here. Ganesh proposed some “steep cut” (a steep shortcut), which turned our to be slippery. I still have no clue how our porter Ganesh managed all of this in his super useless sneakers. Muktinath has plenty of temples, hotels, lodges and we ignored almost all of that as all we wanted was to get to a ‘clean’ room, wash some clothes and do nothing. BUT to get to the city you could either choose the way on the dusty road, or via some temple complexes. We chose the temple complexes, as there seemed to be a lot going on. There were some ceremonies in which the people walk through running water or pools of water and pray during that. Many half-naked Nepali bodies. To get as far away as possible as quickly as possible, Isi performed fall 2 – on the slippery wet ground around the pools, almost ending up in there herself! This was the most painful fall, since on hard asphalt. We checked in at about 12pm. Took shower in our room at ‘Best Step Inn’. Sleep, food.
Day 11: Muktinath to Marpha (29.5km)
Started of course late (about 8am). We took a long way to avoid the dusty roads. The initial plan was to get somewhere to Kagbeni (some 15km). The area looked a bit like a desert (which it actually is – they call it the Nepali Desert). If you would not see the white mountains, I could believe that this is Death Valley or something similar in South West USA. Kagbeni area gave the landscape a different look. A small river making it through a big valley and Kagbeni built next to it. Even though it was very pretty, we decided to continue further as we reached quite early. We even resisted such tempting places like Yak Donalds. Instead we stopped for lunch some 45 min later in a middle of nothing (stone desert-like and dust). The road to Jomsom was terrible, dusty, boring. Ganesh in an optimistic tone proposed to continue to Marpha (1 more hour). Fine for me as Jomsom was nothing special and Marpha was supposed to be nice. The walk was across a river bed. It was rather flat and therefore suuuuuper windy. Ganesh became very slow and we had to wait for him really long (he said he doesn’t like the wind). He had some pain in his foot / leg. No wonder with his destroyed sneakers, as mentioned before.
We reached Marpha after sunset (in the cold). Indeed Marpha is very nice. We checked into some hotel with bigger but dirty room (with some bugs). Isi washed her hair hoping that in the warm dining room it will be ok. Dining room was very cold. And Isi got sick.
Day 12: Marpha to Tatopani (oh gosh, … that bus ride)
With the deep sexi and sick voice of Isi in the morning the decision was easy. Knowing how dusty the road was the day before, we asked Ganesh to get the bus and save some hiking days. We tried to reach Thai Airways to do changes to our flight (no success). We walked through Marpha and found the bus. By coincidence, Stephanie was looking out of the window of that bus! 🙂 We paid (a lot) for the bus ride. On the other hand, it probably gave us the same experience as Six Flags. You could constantly see several hundreds of meters of nothing on the left (down) of the bus (like 10 – 20 centimetres. Often no road could be seen). The quality of the road is excellent for testing the professional SUVs and the take-over maneuvers would fit very nicely for a Fear Factor episode. Keith and Stephanie left the bus at an earlier stop. We made it to Tatopani and checked in at the Old Kamala Lodge. Isi went to do some laundry and met a woman who did not allow her to do her own laundry. Instead she insisted that she will do it for her. She mentioned that if she does not do laundry well, then the lodge / hotel owner would beat her. And she showed Isi some missing teeth. Hmm. 3 beers and sleep.
Day 13: Tatopani to Ghorepani (ouch… loooong and steep)
For me this has probably been worse than climbing the Thorung-La Pass. We hiked up from 1200m to 2880m. To cut it short, it was long, steep, hot and humid. At some point of time (lunch, where we met a Dutch couple – Reinhold and Daniela) we started walking up and we did not feel like waiting for Ganesh all the time. With very few breaks we made it to Ghorepani and checked in at a lodge. We expected that Ganesh may need some more time, but 45 minutes was more than we expected, so we were happy to see him afterwards.
We met the Dutch again and decided to meet at 7:30pm in a Pool / Billiard bar. It sounded like a great idea, but as it got cold and we got tired, we somehow wished for bed more. Yet as we proposed we came there to meet them. Luckily they did not show up 🙂 Bed and sleep. Not too long.
Day 14: Ghorepani – Poon Hill – Nayapul – Pokhara
The alarm rings at 4:30am. Auuu. The sleep in the Snow View Lodge was actually really nice, comfy and warm. Without any breakfast and leaving the stuff in our room, we rush (run) up the extra 300 metres to Poon Hill for the sunrise with all the majestic mountains around. Don’t know why we go fast like crazy, but we get to the top long before sunrise. The hill gets crowded soon. We get some tea and I set up the tripod and timelapse. We spend some 45-60 minutes up there. Indeed it was beautiful. What else could a sunrise with all those Annapurnas and other 6000+ metre mountains be.
Isi and Ganesh left me there alone (for all my photography fun), so after some 20 minutes I basically half ran it down just to get down in time for breakfast. We ate, drank, packed and left.
Since then we only walked down down and down again. We had some 2000 metres to descend. As you could imagine, it was extremely painful for the knees and ankles. On top of that it was very hot and the path was dusty, steep and slippery. At some point of time I was really tempted to get an SUV ride to save the last 2 hours of (already more comfortable) descent, but luckily we met Reinhold and Daniela who convinced us otherwise. So we walked together, discussed some travel stories, ideas of what to do in South East Asia (see Isabel’s blog about the Gibbon Experience)
Finally we made it to Nayapul in the end. To our surprise we really had a car – taxi there for us, which we already pre-paid to Pramod in Kathmandu. That taxi driver got us all the way to our hotel in Pokhara. That was a nice feeling – sitting in the car, see the nice Annapurna range from the window. At some point of time the taxi driver made a stop in the middle of the road and walked to some other car and talked to him for some 15-20 minutes. It turned out to be some guy, who is helping our taxi driver with house renovation and is helping him design the windows. Hmm…
We checked-in at our ‘luxury’ hotel with a big bed (even with own shower, toilet, and other fancy facilities like an own mini-balcony. Wow.
Pokhara was rather nice. By a complete random coincidence we met Daniela and Reinhold on the street nearby our hotel, so we went for a really nice coffee, talked and got some other ideas for food and coffee in the city etc…
We texted Steph and Keith and met them for a dinner at a good pizza place. We again met Daniela and Reinhold by chance and talked again…
Isi finally bought some pashmina (cashmeer) scarfs. So did I. Later on (from Kathmandu) we shipped them to Germany.
After some nice 3 days of doing nothing active at all, we got to the bus station in Pokhara, boarded our funny bus to Kathmandu. After all the discomfort of the last weeks, this bus ride seemed like a dream to me. I was listening to an audiobook (the witcher) and after some 6 hours we made it to our hotel in Kathmandu. More on Kathmandu (before and after the trek) in some other post…
And so ends our lovely Himalayan experience. Next stop after Kathmandu –> South East Asia (Thailand).